Would You Drink Whisky Or Wine Made Entirely In A Lab?

Image: Stefan Salich / Flickr

Talk to an aficionado and they'll tell you the main ingredient in any fine spirit is "time" — and money. But what if you could isolate the exact chemicals present in say, a 25-year Macallan, combine them with a neutral base and have something that tastes just as good without the wait and for a fraction of the price? Is that blasphemy... or science?

Endless West, once called Ava Winery, has been working away at concocting fine booze from its primordial elements, according to an article by The Verge's Alan Goldfarb.

The Endless West website, barren except for a newsletter signup form. Image: Endless West

Based in San Francisco, Endless West is using "gas chromatography and mass spectrometer machines" instead of barrels to produce delicious ethanol.

Well, that's the eventual plan anyway:

The quest is to tease out which “naturally derived” carbohydrates, sugars, proteins, amino acids, and lipids comprise a wine or spirit, and which components encompass the organoleptic profiles of various alcoholic beverages.

Key aromatics and flavor molecules are being identified such as citrus-like esters from ethyl isobutyrate and pineapple-y aromas derived from ethyl hexanoate or the buttery qualities found in the compound diacetyl.

When you think about it, the idea is sound — even if it rubs lovers of fine scotch and wine the wrong way. The only problem is that Endless West doesn't have a public product yet, though it should hopefully have a "rum, bourbon, or whiskey" before the end of the year.

That said, Goldfarb was given a synthetic moscato to try:

...[it] had plastic aroma and taste, and reeked with artificiality. There wasn’t much in the way of fruit, nor was there a hint of acidity, which would have brightened the flavors and balanced the wine. The basic components that always make up the profile of a wine were nonexistent, and the whole flavor was masked by inauthenticity.

Not off to the best start, it seems, but the ramifications are extraordinary if the company does succeed. The worst case scenario? A flood of fakes, indistinguishable from the progenitors that inspired them.

[Endless West, via The Verge]

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